Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen Review

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Brian Ching, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy
Colours by Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Steve Wanda
Published by DC Comics

Review by Stephanie Cooke

DC’s Rebirth relaunch has been surprisingly good overall. With most titles forgetting the continuity of the DC New 52 and finding clever ways to write that out of existence, it was a great start for fans and newcomers to once again jump on board to any comics they may have been interested in, such as Supergirl.

In the past, I’d read a few Supergirl comics – long before the show ever popularized the character to the masses. That might be the most hipster comic thing I’ll say but I was by no means a fan. I didn’t really follow the character and didn’t really have a huge attachment to Kara Zor-El. There are arcs that have definitely compelled me (including some of the stuff from the DC New 52, actually), so I went into the new Rebirth Supergirl optimistic.

I have enough basic knowledge about Supergirl to hold my own, but as I began reading the first few pages of this new reboot, it was clear that it wasn’t a true relaunch of the story. This is something that frustrates me deeply. I know it’s not likely that the writer decided to keep some past story and continuity, but rather the Superman editing team pushing an agenda. Regardless, I just want to pick up an Issue #1 and feel like I’m in on the ground level.

Clearly this review is off to a good start.

Supergirl isn’t a bad comic by any means, but it feels disjointed. As I continued within the first arc of Kara’s new story, I struggled to really understand what was going on. We have Adventures of Supergirl, which ties into the TV series, and while I don’t expect the comic to follow suit (nor SHOULD it necessarily… the show and comics can be separate), I feel that there should be some things that are held across both continuities for fans who want to try a comic that’s not solely based on the TV series.

This comic focuses on Kara as she comes out of the Phantom Zone and adjusts to being on Earth. Her cousin is dead – her whole family is dead – and all she wants to do is help the people of this new planet. But she doesn’t know how to help them. Things kick off with Kara owing a debt to the DEO after they use their resources to restore her powers.

Again, this felt like a weird place to start the book to me. Why are Kara’s powers gone? How has she only been on Earth a couple months to discover her powers and lose them? How did the DEO use a Phantom Zone pod to get Kara to the sun and back? How did they know they would restore her powers? How did they know she would then owe them?

I’m not throwing out these questions in a CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS!? sort of way, because these are comics we’re talking about. Rather, these were a LOT of things floating around in my head mere moments after trying to immerse myself in the story. I didn’t get it. I DON’T get it still.*

*I did go back into the book and discovered that part of the problem here was that the trade paperback kicks things off with the Supergirl Rebirth but doesn’t do a great job of letting you know that it sort of stands alone from the rest. I guess it’s meant to help transition us from DC New 52 Supergirl to this new Rebirth Supergirl, but it didn’t do a great job of it. So, everything above still stands for me, but with the added knowledge that these problems are specific to the issue of Supergirl Rebirth.

Kara deals with all of this with the grace of an angsty teenager… and I mean, I’ll give it to her – if you’re going to be an angsty teenager, being angsty about losing your family, your home, your planet, and your powers is some top notch reasoning (shout out to Cat Grant within this volume calling Kara out on that angst though).

The main obstacle for Kara to overcome doesn’t come until we get to the end of the first official issue (technically Issue #2 if you count Rebirth). As mentioned, this volume is the Reign of the Cyborg Supermen, which is more or less self-explanatory. I don’t want to get into the twist there and ruin things for you but it was… a little strange.

I FEEL BAD, GUYS. I really want to like this book and I SUPER (no pun intended) don’t want to feel like I’m not enjoying one of the few books featuring a female lead but I just DON’T. I’m disappointed by this book, to be quite honest. I wanted so much more that I didn’t feel was delivered to me here.

Emanuela Lupacchino is on pencils with Ray McCarthy on inks for the initial story here – the Supergirl Rebirth Issue. From there, the volume transitions to Brian Ching as the artist and I gotta say that I don’t love it. I hate that I don’t love but I just couldn’t get into it here. It’s almost a Darwyn Cooke pinup style but mashed with the linework style of someone like Rafael Albuquerque. I love both of those artists, Cooke and Albuquerque, separately but mashed together for Ching’s style really didn’t work for me.

The colourist, Michael Atiyeh, did a great job with the story here – there’s a LOT of red and blue throughout the book to remind you it’s a Supes family story.

Is Brian Ching’s art bad? No – objectively it’s not bad, it’s just different.

Is the story bad? No – again, it’s not bad comic, especially if you go in with perhaps lower expectations than my own. I think my earlier point still stands in that fans of the show are going to be coming to other Supergirl comics and having more common ground between them could have helped. Cat Grant is there and establishes herself in Kara’s world and Kara’s foster posters, the Danvers are present but they’re different and we’re missing Alex who became a really big part of the show.

I do appreciate that Steve Orlando is trying to take Kara in a cool direction where she’s finding purpose for herself outside of her powers through science and technology. I love that she has agency of her own besides her super EVERYTHING to drive a story without all of that. That’s special and something that a lot of other creators overlook. Amy Chu did a great job of that with Poison Ivy: Life or Death and I love seeing it happen here too, diversifying these characters. I’m tired of the girl reporter trope (which obviously is heavily in the Supes universe) so it’s nice for a change.

Once I got into the book, I think my biggest problem was the villain. I didn’t love the direction that the story took there and made it very personal to Kara. In a lot of ways it made sense (again, I don’t want to spoil anything) but I think this particular villain could’ve come at a later date once Kara had established herself on Earth a bit more and had a chance to really start pining for her family and such.

Verdict:
Check it out – I think I was turned off of this book for a lot of reasons that won’t bother other people. My personal tastes when it comes to art made it hard for me to stick with it and while again, it’s not BAD, I just didn’t love it.

I will say that by the end of the arc, while I still wasn’t blown away, it came a long way from where it started. It was a slow kickoff and I’m curious to see what Steve Orlando does with the next volume.

I think Rebirth really threw a lot of writers under the bus with revamping a lot of previous continuity and I don’t think Orlando is a bad writer because I didn’t love this arc. Tom King has proven himself to be an amazing comics writer but his first arc on Batman Rebirth was incredibly weak, in my opinion, but it picks up as he works around the changes implemented above his level. I feel that Supergirl will be in the same boat.

Stephanie Cooke
scooke@hotmail.ca
Stephanie is a Toronto based writer and editor. She's a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, and sarcasm. She is a purveyor of too many projects and has done work for Talking Comics, JoBlo.com, Agents of Geek, Word of the Nerd, C&G Magazine, Dork Shelf, and more. Her writing credits include "Home Sweet Huck" (Mark Millar's Millarworld Annual 2017), "Lungarella (Secret Loves of Geek Girls, 2016), "Behind Enemy Linens" (BLOCKED Anthology, 2017), "Home and Country" (Toronto Comics Anthology, 2017) and more to come. You can read more about her shenanigans over on her <a href="http://www.stephaniecooke.ca">personal web site</a>.

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